Biggy Smalls & Faking It Until You Make It
Faking it is about self-induced transformation. I am not who I say I am--or at least I wasn’t. I faked it through all of 2017. And it turned out in my favor. I plan do the same this year. Even at 32, I feel like I am still figuring out how to be an adult, how to be responsible for my own well-being. And I am just now getting the hang of pretending that I am a rockstar, a kick-ass leader and a owner of a successful business. By pretending to be these things, I know I will eventually become them.
Like Biggy said, “it was all a dream.” Listen to his hit “Juicy”, and you’ll hear him share how he hustled, emulated top rappers of the era, practiced their look and sound, and ultimately achieved his dream of becoming the top rapper in the game. He faked it until he made it.
In the first line of his most famous rap, Notorious B.I.G. reminisces about plastering his bedroom with photo spreads of his favorite rappers. He literally surrounded himself with folks he wanted to be like:
I used to read Word Up magazine Salt'n'Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine Hangin' pictures on my wall
And before he hit it big, he played their tapes until they were unplayable, he even smoked and drank the same things that they did:
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl I let my tape rock 'til my tape pop Smokin' weed and bamboo, sippin' on private stock
He emulated their style:
Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack With the hat to match Remember Rappin' Duke, duh-ha, duh-ha You never thought that hip hop would take it this far
By the end of the verse, he tells of experiencing the fame and fortune that he (practiced) dreamed about:
Now I'm in the limelight 'cause I rhyme tight
And his final line echoes the notion that even though his image had elevated, and he’d gone through a kind of transformation, he maintained the authenticity of his roots.
I'm blowin' up like you thought I would Call the crib, same number same hood It's all good
Faking it implies that one ascends, expands, and grows, yet maintain the essence of who they are. My faking it strategy is the result of the inescapable imposter syndrome that many successful black folks experience as they climb the corporate ladder or thrive in majority white spaces. That nagging voice that only you can hear---although seemingly confirmed by the looks and off-center comments of others---saying that you just don't belong in the place where you’ve landed. That you just aren't qualified, experienced enough, or white enough. And actually, as the pro-black, afrocentric person that I am---I don't wish to be any of those other things. So I fake it. Flawlessly code-switch, but never become that other person. Never compromise my values, ideas, and beliefs...especially ones at the essence of my being.
I turned 32 last month. And as I reflect back on 2017, I realize that I faked my whole 31st year! I don't mean that I fooled anyone or "cooked the books", but I stepped (jumped, leapt, dove head-first) into the man, the traveler, the manager, the professional, the being that I have wanted to be--even when I felt I wasn't completely ready. You know, that smart, confident zaddy that makes his own rules---yeah, that one! I put my claim on him. Adulthood for me, has been about faking it until I made it.
The first time I realized that faking it was necessary was when I got the news that I hadn't been chosen for an international exchange program in college. I literally had no good answers to the interview questions, had done no pre-networking with the panel of judges, and did little research about the organization itself. I learned that lesson the hard way.
The first time I found myself faking it was during a fellowship at a prestigious university. The other students in my cohort were genius level! Many of them are now running international businesses, serving in Presidential administrations, etc. I eventually caught on to their strategies and work ethic. Ultimately, I went on to receive my Master’s degree from that same university. On a full-ride. I faked it until I made it.
From what I’ve said so far, you may be correlating the idea of simply being prepared, with my definition of faking it...well, its associated, but not quite the definition. Faking it is about seeing something that is more grand and more difficult than you believe that you can attain in a given moment--and actually taking the risk to pursue it with the same sense of entitlement, the same swag, the same bravado and confidence that any prepared (or privileged) person would. Even when you are not prepared---the idea of faking it means that you will still go for it.
In an age when just about anyone can become President, and just about anyone can hold nuclear codes---I ask myself, what the hell is holding me back? Why should I not claim that which I aspire to? Why should I keep letting past trauma and drama keep me from growth and transformation?
I find that faking it also holds value when traveling. I am sure you’ve heard that by standing on a street corner openly navigating with a huge tourist map, you’ll attract seedy individuals to take advantage of your lost-ness, I think the same holds true in life. When I travel, I check my maps before I leave the hotel, or simply keep small notes that I can refer to in a jiffy. I never walk down the street holding a whole travel guide. That screams “Come get me”. Therefore, if you flip that analogy and apply it to life---I never go into meetings without an having fleshed out an agenda and talking points, and I never make a presentation without anticipating hard questions. Adulthood for me, has been about faking it until I make it. If you fake like you're a confident traveler that shouldn't be messed with, then you won't be messed with. If you fake like you know where you're going, you will get there.
In my 32nd year, I am claiming more faking it 'til I make it. I am going to fake all kinds of stuff. I will expand and grow my business, I will have all kinds of incredible friends from different countries that open their homes to me when I am in town, I will have perfect credit. I will fake some HYUGE things this year.
Faking it is a form of practicing and signaling. By emulating the roles, actions and demeanors of that person that you want to be, you inherently practice a specific behavior and it signals to others that they should treat you as if you were who you aspire to be. And soon they'll start to believe that you are actually who you are faking to be, and then you will also begin to believe that you are that person. And that is where the transformation happens! When you actually believe that based on your actions and the responses from others that you are who you are signaling yourself to be, you have made it.
Join me as I fake it and make it all up and through 2018. We will be transformed.